RALEIGH – North Carolina’s businesses and citizens generate more than 1.1 million tons of food waste each year, according to a study released today by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Prepared by the Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach, or DEAO, the study estimates that food makes up at least 12 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) in North Carolina. DENR’s report (found online at http://goo.gl/BK9Nq) provides individual estimates for residential and commercial waste generation, as well as the total MSW landfill stream. In addition, the study reports specific estimates for food retailers such as supermarkets.
“Food waste diversion represents a major opportunity for the state to increase material recovery and should become an increasing priority for local and state recycling programs, as well as food waste generators such as supermarkets and restaurants,” said Scott Mouw, state recycling program director. “Since curbside recycling is on the rise, and we’ve made progress with many other recyclable materials, food waste is the next frontier for reducing the state’s dependence on solid waste landfills.”
Additional findings from the study include:
- The projected estimate of annual food waste that enters the residential waste stream in North Carolina is 673,362 tons. This equates to just over seven pounds of waste per household, per week.
- The commercial sector – mainly food retailers in the restaurant and grocery industries – generates an estimated 569,343 tons of food waste every year.
- Together, fast food and full service restaurants produce the largest total amount of food waste in the retail business. Meanwhile, the average supermarket produces more waste than any other single restaurant or convenience store, 106 tons of food waste every year.
Large-scale diversion of food waste from disposal is uncharted territory for most communities around the United States. However, DEAO estimates that more than 60,000 tons of waste per year are already being diverted from North Carolina landfills through collection and composting of separated food from individual businesses and institutions, subscription residential food waste collection services, commercial donations to food kitchens and household backyard composting. The report suggests that DENR and local governments work to build up and expand the collection of food waste from the commercial and retail sector, such as large supermarket chains. It also notes the need to facilitate the growth of household diversion programs to accompany curbside recycling in the residential sector, the state’s largest source of food waste.
To encourage the development of food waste diversion efforts, DENR is co-hosting the Southeast Food Waste Reduction Conference in Charlotte this fall. This conference is designed to provide composting and organics recycling professionals in both the public and private sector with new insights to create successful food waste diversion programs in both residential and commercial settings. More information about this conference can be found online at: http://www.cra-recycle.org/foodwasteconference/.